Pembroke native wins crown

By Terri Ferguson Smith -

PEMBROKE — A member of the Lumbee Tribe will represent the state for the next year as Miss Indian North Carolina.

Kayla Jean Oxendine, 26, of Pembroke, was crowned March 9 in Charlotte.

“Miss Indian North Carolina really celebrates native women’s empowerment and cultural empowerment,” Oxendine said.

The competition starts with an interview before the night of the pageant. Other competition segments are evening gown, talent and traditional regalia.

The evening gown competition includes contestants’ platform speeches. Talent routines must embrace American Indian traditions, such as storytelling, dancing, tobacco tying, or basket weaving. In her talent phase, Oxendine told the story of the creation of the strawberry.

The final phase of competition is modeling American Indian regalia, describing its significance, and answering a question.

The judges asked Oxendine to define integrity and tell how she would honor it as Miss Indian North Carolina.

“I told them that integrity wasn’t just about telling the truth; integrity wasn’t just about showing up on time, it was more about holding your word as your bond, making what you say be your truth,” Oxendine said.

Oxendine is a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Biology in 2013 and a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling in 2016. She is a 2008 graduate of Purnell Swett High School.

The platform during her reign will be the importance of loving one’s self.

“I’m a huge advocate for self-love and so my intention as Miss Indian North Carolina is that every person I come across — to help them love themselves a little bit more,” Oxendine said. “Every conversation that I have, every speech I give and every place I go I want to de-stigmatize self-love.”

Oxendine said many people have the idea that self-love is somehow arrogant or selfish.

“In the Bible, it specifically says ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ so to whatever degree you love yourself is the same degree that you’re going to love your neighbor,” Oxendine said.

Oxendine is the Robeson County coordinator for the Recovery Communities of North Carolina, Access to Recovery program.

“I help people who are in recovery stay in recovery,” Oxendine said.

Part of her duties includes conducting a recovery help group each Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. in Pembroke.

Her commitment to helping people love themselves comes from knowing that people with poor self-esteem often turn to chemical dependency.

“Substance use and abuse really stem from that feeling of not feeling good enough,” Oxendine said. “Almost every disorder you can think of comes from lack of self-love and not having the coping skills to deal with life, not knowing how to make life work.”

Pembroke Mayor Greg Cummings said Oxendine’s achievement is good for the community.

“We are very fortunate to have this young lady to represent the Lumbee people and the town of Pembroke, especially with her graduating from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke,” Cummings said. “One of her goals and ambitions is to work within the Robeson County area in counseling for those who are seeking help for substance abuse problems. We are very fortunate to have her here.”

By Terri Ferguson Smith

Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.

Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.

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